John Beale's masquerade as an undercover CIA operative started off as a joke. As a top official in U.S. EPA's air office, his work involved extensive travel and confidential meetings with Capitol Hill staffers and members of Congress. "People would joke about it, and I would deny it and I would laugh it off or I would say something like, well, if I told you anything, I'd have to kill you. I mean, it was a -- it was a joke," Beale told a House committee last month behind closed doors. That joke snowballed into a long-term scheme that has resulted in jail time.